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  • Shelley Dark

#3 Athens

From Brisbane to Dubai we flew in darkness, backwards in time, with dawn hot on our heels. As the plane landed at 7am, the first rays of daylight caught up with us, touching the sky with pink.

It was an interesting flight, with another happy co-incidence.

Researching an historical novel is so much easier since the advent of the internet. I've always enjoyed history from a 'why' point of view, so I'm loving the detective work. Much of the reading is repetitive, but some of it is a real surprise. All of it illuminating and useful.

Some subjects though remain a mystery to me.

by François Geoffroi Roux [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

For instance, shipping in the Mediterranean in the early 1800's. I need to know something about it. And I'm hoping my visit to Hydra will help. 

The Englishman sitting next to me on the aircraft introduced himself. Quietly spoken, he said he lives on the Côte d'Azur. We compared notes on what we're both doing at the moment.

I'm researching a book. He's been in Australia on business. What sort of research? he asked. I described it to him, including the boating. That's my area, he said. I'll be happy to help - just email me your questions. He explained the difference between a brig and a schooner. He captains yachts all over the world. I think he knows the Mediterranean like the back of his hand. 

Plus he has a contact in Malta where I'm researching in May. What he doesn't know he'll try to find out. 

Does it happen to you that when you need something, often it will just turn up in your porridge? I wasn't allocated this seat originally, he said. I changed to this one, for no good reason. 

I've never been to Greece before so I was totally unprepared for the spectacular bitter orange trees (citrus aurantium amara) in the streets of Athens. Beautifully trimmed to shape with deep green leaves, each is laden with hundreds of bright oranges. They say that in spring, the sweet perfume of the blossom fills the air.

I wasn't prepared either for lovely soft grey foliage which covers the hillsides surrounding the city, starkly contrasting with the white chalky stony soil.

I took a quick walk around the CBD. The Acropolis, the dramatic cliff-edged plateau, is omnipresent. At every turn, another view. I asked directions of a young girl in black who was on her way home from work. Her name was Labrini, and she insisted on escorting me for half an hour, enthusiastically telling me all the places I must not miss. And a big double kiss and a hug to say goodbye.

Slick modern buildings kiss the divinely ancient. Byzantine next to Roman next to Gucci.

Deep holes of architectural digs in the middle of the city. 

Roman columns punctuated by ranuncula commas.

I had a glass of wine on the outdoor terrace of the Hotel Grand Bretagne with its view of the Acropolis and Parthenon. It's slightly tattered and charmingly historic and has seen better days. The Parthenon and the hotel!

This is called the 'old palace' - it was the first royal palace of modern Greece, finished in 1834. It's been the parliament building since 1934.

Krispy Kreme donuts next to exquisite mosaics.

What an amazing mix is Athens! Bed is calling buddies. Until tomorrow when we catch the ferry to Hydra,

shelley dark, writer 

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